WASHINGTON — The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is establishing cooperative agreements across the nation to create a network for fostering farmer-to-farmer mentorship. The Organic Transition Initiative (OTI), Transition to Organic Partnership Program (TOPP) is investing up to $100 million over five years in cooperative agreements with non-profit organizations across six major regions.

OTI launched in August, supporting farmers transitioning to organic production by offering technical assistance, farmer-to-farmer mentorship, conservation financial assistance and additional crop insurance assistance.

Through TOPP, participating organizations will establish mentorship programs across the Mid-Atlantic/Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, Plains, Northwest, and West/Southwest. Programs will include direct farmer training, education and outreach programs.

“The organic community is known for strong local collaboration and providing farmer-to-farmer support,” said Jenny Lester Moffitt, USDA undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs. “TOPP will build on this spirit, while bringing organic to new communities of farmers and consumers.”

On Nov. 15, USDA will hold a listening session to gather input from stakeholders about another OTI program, Organic Pinpointed Market Development Program, an initiative to expand organic markets.